Weight Loss Surgery Requirements


How do you know if weight loss surgery is right for you? It's really a question of medical need. Weight loss surgery is about improving the quality of lives, minimizing the effects of health problems related to obesity, and extending life spans. Simply being overweight - even to the point of obesity - may not mean you're automatically a candidate for weight loss surgery. Because each case is different, your doctors will be best equipped to decide is weight loss surgery should be something for you to consider.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the basic standards for qualifying for weight loss surgery include weight/BMI and related health problems. For men at least 100 pounds overweight and women at least 80 pounds overweight, with a BMI of 40 or more, weight loss surgery may be an option.(1)

The presence of health problems related to obesity, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea or other conditions makes it more likely that you'll qualify for weight loss surgery. If you have a BMI of 35 to 39.9 and have at least one of these conditions, weight loss surgery may be right for you.(2)

Further, patients are generally required to have documented previously unsuccessful attempts at weight loss through the more traditional means of diet and exercise before doctors will consider them for weight loss surgery.

Specifically, the current NIH guidelines for qualification for weight loss surgery are as follows:(3)
- BMI of 40 or more (about 100 pounds overweight for men and 80 pounds for women) or a BMI between 35 and 39.9 and a serious obesity-related health problem such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, or severe sleep apnea - Acceptable operative risks
- An ability to participate in treatment and long-term follow-up
- An understanding of the operation and the lifestyle changes you will need to make

Today, there is a movement to reduce the barriers to qualification for weight loss surgery, making it easier for more people to receive this treatment. The argument for this case is based on several key factors, including the body of research that indicates that weight loss surgery is more effective than strictly dietary and medical management in the treatment of obesity.(4)

In addition, studies have shown that weight loss surgery can result in the dramatic improvement in obesity-related health problems, including diabetes, coronary artery disease and some types of cancer. (5)

Advances in medical techniques making the surgery safer and less invasive, combined with the documented beneficial effects of the surgery, make the argument for making weight loss surgery more widely available a compelling one. (6)

(1) "Weight Loss Surgery" National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, accessed 2/21/10

(2)"Gastric Bypass Surgery: Who is it for?" Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, The Mayo Clinic, Oct 6, 2009, WT00031

(3) "Bariatric Surgery for Severe Obesity" U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, NIH Publication No. 08-4006, March 2009

(4) Krall, Naslund. "Surgical Treatment of Obesity" Nature Clinical Practice Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2007, Vol. 3, Number 8, pp574-583

(5) Adams, Gress, Smith, et al. "Long-term mortality after gastric bypass surgery" New England Journal of Medicine, 2007, 357, pp753–761

(6) Ahima, RRS. "Should Elibility for Bariatric Surgery Be Expanded?" Gastroenterology, January 2008; volume 134, Issue 1, p15